Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer

The novel Man in the Woods  is a study of how a family’s world and lifestyle disintegrate in the wake of a secret murder.

The character of Paul Phillips is a journeyman carpenter – a man who has spent most of his adult life as an itinerant jack of all trades.  As such, in his early forties, he welcomes the chance to settle down with Kate, a successful inspirational writer, and her young daughter, and to be able to market his considerable building skills into a steady living.

Paul is a man of unyielding conscience, and this proves his undoing when he witnesses a man needlessly beating a dog in a state park early on in the novel.  Paul fights the man and unwittingly kills him in a rage.   The remainder of the novel is the aftermath of this act – how it unravels a man of powerful moral convictions and how it affects Kate and her child, who despite their promising future, have a shaky past that won’t die.

Man in the Woods is my first excursion into the books of Scott Spencer.  This one proved to be a serious pageturner for me – I went through the first 50 pages on a two-hour plane ride to Boston, and I generally don’t read well on airplanes, so that should tell you something.  Spencer writes very engagingly and really brings to life the ramifications of a murder, however justified it may have seemed. 

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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